[WikiEN-l] Office actions

Jimmy Wales jwales at wikia.com
Fri Dec 15 14:46:11 UTC 2006

Ray Saintonge wrote:
> This is all fine, but Office actions should not be a technique for 
> sweeping issues under the rug indefinitely. 

I agree completely.  The message of WP:OFFICE should not be "hands OFF" 
but "hands ON".

The core idea is that the process SHOULD work like this:

1. A hysterical phone call comes in to the office.  There might or might 
not be legal threats.  The hysteria might or might not be justified. 
But someone is sad, and Wikipedia is not here to make people sad.  So we 
want to respond in a helpful and loving way.

2. The article is stubbed and tagged as WP:OFFICE.  This is a message to 
good editors: "Please help us.  This article is making someone unhappy. 
  We want to make sure that it is a thoughtful, fair, neutral article. 
We need GOOD editors to pay attention to it, and help us make it good."

I would recommend protection or semi-protection at this point, but with 
the idea that even if protected admins are (as compared to normal 
protection) actually encouraged to come help with the article.

3.  After some reasonable period of time, hopefully 24 hours, but 
perhaps as long as a week, the article has become a shining beauty.  The 
subject of the biography (and really, these are most often biographies) 
is either made happy (because a horrible error was corrected, a troll 
was vanquished, or whatever) or made at least satisfied (the story of 
the negative thing he or she did once is now placed in appropriate 
context, properly cited, including citations to his or her own response 
and defense).

4. Joy.


In fact, this is far too often not what happens.

A few things can go wrong with this.

Perhaps trolls scream that the OFFICE is being paid off to censor Wikipedia.

Perhaps trolls scream that Jimbo is pulling the strings for his friends.

Perhaps young and excitable Wikipedia contributors think that the point 
of the exercise is to SHOW PEOPLE that you CAN'T PUSH WIKIPEDIA AROUND, 
and go out to try to dig up well-cited dirt on the person, creating an 
even more horribly bad and biased article than we started with, forcing 
us to start all over again.

Perhaps good contributors who respect WP:OFFICE think "Gee, trouble 
here, I will just stay out of the way"... and then nothing happens.

Perhaps no one really cares in the first place, such that if the article 
has been out-of-process speedied, it would have slipped through the cracks.


I am unsure exactly how to redesign the process so that we get the good 
outcome more often, and the bad outcome less often.

An example of the good outcome can be seen at [[Ron Jeremy]], which was 
NOT subject WP:OFFICE, but rather subject to a controversial blanking by 
an ordinary editor.  It has become an excellent article which continues 
to improve, because good editors are keeping unsourced cruft out of the 
article completely.


  If someone has made a
> statement that may be libellous, and it is so alleged by a person who 
> may be affected a bit of time needs to be taken to gather the 
> appropriate verifiability. 
> If an educational institution is not accredited we do need to mention 
> which list(s) of accredited institutions we have checked to back our 
> position.  But note too that we are supporting a negative position.  If 
> they are accredited they should have no problem establishing that.  A 
> failure to find their name on any reliable list, combined with their 
> refusal to answer about their accreditation would be very difficult for 
> them to sustain in any litigation.
> I have no idea who if anyone has been threatening lawsuits, but students 
> and alumni would likely not have standing for this.  Perhaps the 
> university administration?  Surely the foundation is not responsible for 
> the legal defence of its editors, but a plaintiff is likely to want to 
> make the Foundation at least a co-defendent in a law suit, It should be 
> prepared to defend itself against groundless, vexatious, or SLAPP 
> lawsuits.  If it ends up defending an editor at the same time so much 
> the better.
> Ec
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